Length: 335 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Horror novelist, Lucas, decides to travel back to the town he grew up in, taking up residence in a writer’s retreat as he works on his latest novel. He hopes that the peaceful town and surrounding forests will help him get over his writer’s block and finish the book that his agent and editor are waiting for. But within days of arriving, he discovers the tragic past of the woman who runs the retreat.
Two years ago, Julia’s husband, Michael, died while trying to save their daughter, Lily, from the river that ran near their home. Lily’s soft toy floating in the river had been the only indication that she’d even fallen in. But the police never found her body. Julia believes that her daughter is still alive. Caught in limbo, she’s not able to even mourn the death of her husband. After the tragedy, she turned their home into a writer’s retreat as the only way to save herself from going broke and to keep her mind away from the loss that tore at her every day.
Lucas’ interest in Julia’s story grows every day. Until he finds himself doing everything he can to find out what really happened to Lily that day. But as Lucas continues to search for answers, eerie events begin to unfold at the retreat. Someone, or something, is watching from the shadows. Lucas soon discovers that something is amiss in the events of the day when Michael died. And that a dark secret plagues the town, the retreat, and the forests surrounding the house – a secret that will always remain protected, no matter the cost.
The Bottom Line:
The Retreat has an intriguing storyline and hits all the right notes on suspense, thrill, eerieness, setting, and pace, making for a fast, engaging read.
What I liked the least about The Retreat was Julia. Although you do feel for her after everything she’s been through, she comes across as a little too annoying, too often. Of course, the woman lost her husband and her daughter and is living in a state of limbo. So you can understand the irritating attitude. But what I couldn’t understand about it was how Lucas seems to be oblivious to her flaws. The dynamic between them, for that reason, didn’t make all that much sense to me. Still, it wasn’t the worst, could be written off as the result of the experiences they’d had in life, and was the only slightly irritating part about the book. And the rest of it more than makes up for this.
The story is quite intricate, with a lot of things happening across decades, leading up to the events of the present. The characters are all well defined and have a good real-ness to them. They are all incredibly human in their arrogance, humility, successes, and failures, and in their good and bad. That is what makes the story so relatable – you can actually imagine everything that happens really taking place in a similar setting. It’s also got great suspense and a great setting. It pulls you in right from Page 1 and keeps you hooked throughout.
The best part about the book, though, was its thrill. The Retreat isn’t one of those books where scary faces look out at you from the dark. The thrill it evokes is more subtle and, consequently, incredibly effective. It’s one of those books where the creepiness is brought on by that feeling that you’re being watched, when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, but when you turn around there’s no one there. Yet, you know that someone, or something, was there. It’s the kind of thrill that gets under your skin and stays there, making you a little jumpy at sudden sounds and dark areas. That’s why it stays with you longer and really makes you experience everything that’s happening in the book.
I received The Retreat from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It’s the second Mark Edwards book I’ve gotten from them and although the first one I’d read – The Lucky Ones – was quite good (you can read the review for that here), this one was definitely better. Edwards, who I’d started following after The Lucky Ones, is definitely one of the better (newer) thriller writers and I would love to read more from him. What really makes his work interesting is the variety he brings. It’s not just serial killer thrillers. Edwards writes different stories that just come to him, and while all are of the thriller genre, each of them has a different take on the category. The Retreat, especially, does more than enough justice to the psychological thriller genre under which it’s pitched, which is quite refreshing because (lately) too many books are sold as psychological thrillers when just ‘thriller’ would be more suitable a tag.
I’d strongly recommend The Retreat to:
- fans of thrillers and crime fiction novels
- anyone who wants to try out a new thriller author (I’m sure you’ll enjoy Edwards’ style)
- those who want a thriller with a twist
A big thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for an ARC of The Retreat! The book released on May 10, so grab your copy right away!
Share your thoughts on The Retreat or any other books you’d like to recommend in the comment section below!